Tuesday 22 August 2017

Bring the Villages Closer Together

A recent short trip to Suffolk makes me reflect on the particular issues of the church there. Take, for instance, the "Benefice of the Saints". Which consists of:
Rumburgh with All Saints South Elmham & St Nicholas South Elmham; St James South Elmham; St Michael South Elmham; Ilketshall St John; Ilketshall St Lawrence; Ilketshall St Margaret; Flixton; Homersfield; St Margaret South Elmham; St Peter South Elmham; St Cross South Elmham.

If you're thinking South Elmham and Ilkeshall have lots of churches for two villages, this is because they aren't really villages. They're actually collections of villages, each one named after a saint.

So the church in the parish of "All Saints South Elmham & St Nicholas South Elmham" is, as you might imagine, dedicated to "St Michael and St Felix."

This is England.

Also being England, this whole patch is covered by an incumbent and one assistant, who also has two other jobs. And it's currently in vacancy. So of your mercy pray for Revd Ian Byrne, who must be shattered.

Of course the congregations in this scattering are small. Flixton, for instance, has a PCC with 3 members. And doesn't have a service this year between Bonfire Night and Christmas Eve.

Now when faced with this kind of thing, some people suggest a Minster Model. This is where the worship is based around the main church, and people are sent out - presumably on bicycles - to minister to the outlying parishes. I've never understood why this helps, or what the point is. Another solution is to close most of the churches. The churches are over-large for this age, and probably for any age - they were presumably built with money from wool, or rubber bands, or whatever that part of England made in the old days, and they were built big to the glory of God and bigger to the glory of the local squire.

But people like to have a church in the village where they live. Even if they never attend. Which leads me to my more radical suggestion.

Move all the houses closer together. Then close the churches that aren't where the houses are anymore, or sell them. The houses will be close enough together that not only will they have viable church congregations, they will also have enough people to support local schools, pubs and maybe even a shop with a sub-post-office.

You could call the clumped-together villages "towns".  I don't know why nobody has ever thought of this before.
If all the people in the graveyard rose, they still wouldn't fill the church

1 comment :

  1. An alternative suggestion, although the cycling lobby won't like me for it: Let all the residents of these scattered villages buy cars, or gas-guzzling old pickup trucks. Let them use these to drive ten minutes to one central church each week, and to one central supermarket, post office etc. I guess most of them have already taken up this idea asfar as the supermarket is concerned. And if the cyclists prefer to cycle twenty minutes, they're welcome to. (This is Peter Kirk, by the way, in case Google gets confused about my identity.)


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